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New program offers ‘staycations’ to health care workers

Health care workers can stay at select Big Island hotels and resorts for free under a new program intended to show appreciation for overworked nurses, doctors, first responders and others.

The Hotels for Healthcare Heroes program was announced Thursday by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

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It’s similar to the Hotels for Heroes initiative that launched in April 2020 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that program was state-funded. Hotels for Healthcare Heroes is entirely funded by the participating businesses.

Beginning the weekend of Sept. 17 and continuing on consecutive weekends through the end of October, hotels and resorts will provide free two-night staycations for health care workers selected by hospital administrators. The administrators will work directly with HLTA and the Healthcare Association of Hawaii to make reservations.

“I just want to thank all of the hospitality industry,” Mayor Mitch Roth said during a news conference Thursday. “Throughout the whole pandemic, they’ve been incredible partners in pausing travel, in vaccination, and in testing. This program will be especially welcome on Hawaii Island where, prior to the pandemic, we were already operating at a shortage of 50% of necessary health care workers.”

So far, more than 50 hotels statewide have agreed to participate in the program, although HLTA President Mufi Hannemann said more are expected to join.

On the Big Island, six hotels are involved so far: the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, Mauna Kea Resorts, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Waikoloa Beach Marriott, Mauna Lani Auberge Resorts and the Grand Naniloa Hotel.

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A spokesman for the mayor said more hotels are expected to announce their involvement soon.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune- herald.com.

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